Happy Republic Day dear os.me family ! The 74th Republic Day has just gone by reminding everyone of the glory, strength and heritage of our motherland – the proud Bharatvarsha. Do you know why India was named Bharata?
Most of us have heard only one version of the story-which is the following .
Story 1 –
Bharata was named after Emperor Bharat – the glorious son of King Shantanu and Shakuntala. The story goes that Shakuntala was an unparalleled and mesmerizing beauty- born of Sage Vishwamitra and famous apsara – Menaka. She was brought up by Rishi Kanav. As she was nursing a deer near the Rishi’s ashrama – a sharp arrow injured the calf.
She looked around to see who could have been the cruel soul – and ended up locking her eyes with Shantanu . The King also could not take her eyes off her. He stayed in the ashrama – the two fell in love and while departing Shantanu presented her with his royal ring as a sign of his love and promised to return . Soon enough though Shantanu busy with his duties , forgot about her . Shankuntala , now pregnant, went to Shantanu’s court to remind him of his love and his promise . However , while crossing a river she lost her ring when she was playing with the waves. The King had no memory of the pregnant lady and Shakuntala returned heartbroken. Her son whom she named Bharata was brought up in the forest with wild animals as his companions and friends . In the meanwhile – that ring Shankuntala lost- had been swallowed by a fish – which got trapped in a fisherman’s net . The fisherman recovered the ring while trying to cook the fish and realizing its importance – went to the court to return it to the King. Shantanu’s memories came flooding back ,looking at the ring and he left at once to get his lovely bride back . Not finding her at the ashrama , when he looked around , he saw an unbelievable scene unfolding in front of him. A fearless and handsome young kid was counting the teeth of a lion keeping its mouth open . The fearless prince was his son Bharat . Profusely apologizing for his mistake, Shantanu took Shakuntala and Bharat back. Bharat became a Chakravarti emperor as he grew up and conquered the earth. The country therefore got its name as Bharata ( or Bharatvarsha) as the kingdom of Bharat. The roots of this story lie in the grand epic Mahabharata.
The second story finds its roots in Jainism (find the best Places of worship of Jainism) but also has a few shlokas in Vishnu Purana which support it. As per this story, the country got its name from Bharat the Chakravarti King but this one was a scion of the Ikshvaku dynasty(of Lord Rama) and the son of Rishabhdeva( also the first Tirthankara of Jainism – known as Adinatha) .
Vishnu Purāna mentions:
ऋषभो मरुदेव्याश्च ऋषभात भरतो भवेत्
भरताद भारतं वर्षं, भरतात सुमतिस्त्वभूत्
Rishabha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabha,
Bharatavarsha (India) arose from Bharata and Sumati arose from Bharata.
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,31)
ततश्च भारतं वर्षमेतल्लोकेषुगीयते
भरताय यत: पित्रा दत्तं प्रतिष्ठिता वनम (विष्णु पुराण, २,१,३२)
This country is known as Bharatavarsha since the times the father entrusted the kingdom to the son Bharata and he himself went to the forest for ascetic practices.
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,32)
It is this story of not just Bharata Chakrvarti but that of his brother Bahubali that I want to focus on today. It is said that Rishabhdeva , the emperor had a 100 sons of which Bharata was the eldest and Bahubali was second. Rishabhdeva , left his kingdom – handing it over to his son Bharata- and pursued enlightenment through severe austerities .
Bharata – powerful , ambitious , handsome and brave – found a divine disc – a chakra ratna – in his yagyashala . He set the chakra free pursued a journey of conquest . No state could stand before his well equipped and brave army . Eventually , after going through the entire nation – the chakra returned to the glorious city of Ayodhya leading to massive celebrations for the homecoming victorious king .
But the chakra won’t enter the city gates . The counsellors advised Bharat this is because he still needs to win over his brothers . 98 of his brothers surrendered acknowledging his supremacy – they were advised by Rishabhdeva to conquer their inner demons and not be tempted by external conquests. Bahubali remained unmoved and refused to acknowledge Bharata’s suzerainty. The mighty armies of Bharata and Bahubali came face to face – heralding a fierce battle unto death . The counsellors of both kings – scurried to advise them and implore them to avoid the tremendous loss of blood and lives .
They unanimously agreed that if Bharat and Bahubali wanted to settle the debate of who is better , more powerful and therefore more deserving of being the emperor , they could have a decisive duel between themselves . ( some accounts say there were 3 rounds of duels ). The brothers agreed and arrived in the battlefield for a duel unto death . Bahubali was powerful and well built and as valorous as his famous brother Bharat. Bharat tried using all possible weapons to defeat Bahubali but couldn’t. He shuddered at the thought of a shameful defeat and unleashed the divine chakra- ratna on Bahubali as the last resort. Bahubali survived – because one of the properties of the chakra was that it wouldn’t harm a blood relation of the bearer. But now Bahubali was furious about the rules of battle being broken and the two brothers were locked in a fierce wrestling match. Bahubali won and was about to bring down his hand, killing Bharat . Onlookers trembled and watched in awe. Suddenly , a stroke of enlightenment struck Bahubali as he wondered” What am I about to do ? Am I about to kill my own brother , for the sake of a few physical possessions which my own father and brothers have abandoned? How low have I fallen?” Vairagya or detachment instantly pervaded his heart and instead of striking Bharat- he pulled out his hair ( as monks do during renunciation). He gave up the worldly life and handed over his kingdom to Bharat .
He started meditating on the very spot on which he stood. He stood in that very spot for so long that creepers began to grow around his feet. Years passed with Bähubali standing in that posture of meditation. Yet, he did not gain enlightenment. Some say Rishabhdeva sent his daughter Brahmi and other accounts say the frustrated Bahubali heard the passing monks who mentioned the reason of Bahubali not reaching his goal is that he is sitting on an elephant . The elephant of Ego . He realized he still had the elephant of ego within him which had prevented him from bowing before his brothers and accepting Bharat as the king . This realization dissolved his ego and he attained enlightenment .
As per the Digambara sect , Bahubali became the first person to attain enlightenment in that era. An awe inspiring 57 feet tall statue , carved out of a single rock more than a 1000 years ago – stands in his memory in Shravanbelogola – Karnataka .
And what happened to Bharat? Bharat became the undisputed emperor – or Chakravarti . He ruled for a long time and people were very happy during his rule . One day a ring fell off his finger and he noticed his finger doesn’t look as beautiful. curiosity overtook him and he removed all his rings and saw that his fingers were no longer beautiful. Then he took off his crown and other ornaments that used to decorate his body and looked in the mirror. He noticed that he was aging and did not look as handsome as he once was .
This set off a train of thoughts. ‘I consider myself handsome and strong but this entire look is merely due to the ornaments which do not belong to the body. The body itself is made up of blood and bones. Then why am I so attached to my body?’ He thought further. ‘My body will not last forever and will decompose sooner or later. At that stage, I will have to leave everything behind. The only everlasting entity is the soul. Why not do away with my attachment of all the temporary things and instead focus on something that lasts forever like my father did?” Thus, he developed an acute detachment for the worldly life. As per Shvetambara tradition, this reflection led to the rise of true enlightenment from within and as a result he attained omniscience or Kaivalya gyana in that very room as a lay person. Digambar tradition indicates that after an acute detachment of worldly life, he renounced that life and became a monk. Immediately after becoming monk, he attained Kaivalya-gyana.
That ends the two stories of how Bharatvarsha was named after 2 glorious Bharats and the story of the real Bahubali. Every single grain of history of this divine land is full of spiritual wisdom.